Georgetown Gala ‘Plays Among the Stars’

As the Georgetown Gala makes the scene this Friday at the Italian Embassy, it joins other big-time soirees around the city at the height of Washington, D.C.’s social calendar.

The gala’s theme, “Fly Me to the Moon” evokes an optimistic 1960s feeling with Frank Sinatra, the Rat Pack, “Mad Men” and man’s first landing on the moon. Expect to see some Franks and Sammys walking around, some Don Drapers and Jane Harrises, too — maybe even Buzz Aldrin, or one Georgetowner, who is, in fact, a retired space shuttle commander.

Started in 2003 as the 125th anniversary celebration of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, the party has become the hot ticket in town, attracting about 400 partygoers to the association’s biggest annual fundraiser.

Georgetown’s advocate for residents and homeowners descends from D.C.’s first civic group, the Georgetown Citizens Association, formed in 1878, which merged in 1963 with the Progressive Citizens Association of Georgetown to form CAG. Past victories include the passage of the Old Georgetown Act in 1950 and saving the Old Stone House.

Today, the group works with neighbors, businesses, Georgetown University, the Metropolitan Police Department and other groups. The association sees “Georgetown as a residential community, a historic treasure, an educational center and a vital component of the District of Columbia’s retail and tourism economy. The association seeks to maintain a unique mix of missions for the community . . .”

Together, the list of what CAG does is impressive: tree plantings, concerts in the parks, an oral history project, a public safety program, historic preservation, town-gown relations, monthly meetings and an online bulletin board and efforts on trash and rodents. It is all the more impressive that much of the work is done by volunteers from the community – and with an annual operating budget of $545,000.

This year, the annual black-tie blowout will honor former mayoral candidate and Ward 2 Councilmember (since 1991) Jack Evans and his wife Michele Seiver Evans and their six children, who live on P Street (a modern-day Brady Bunch). Chair of the Committee on Finance and Revenue, Jack Evans is closely involved with decisions on D.C. taxes and budgets. He was in the forefront in pushing for approval of the Verizon Center and Nationals Park. Michele is very active in CAG, its Trees for Georgetown as well as Volta Park and the Georgetown House Tour – and, now, Dog Tag Bakery (more on this later).

“CAG, for me as a newcomer, was such an inviting place,” said Michele Evans. “When I married Jack, I’d forgotten which side was east or west. Georgetown is a village: everybody takes care of everybody.”

She echoed her husband’s refrain: “This is the golden age of Georgetown.” (How many years has Jack said this?)

“The minute I got involved with CAG, they invited me on committees,” Evans said. “It was my pleasure to help.” Mentioning bicycling or jumping on the Circulator bus, she said that she liked that the town is so walkable.

As for CAG’s annual gala, it is a great time for “neighbors to catch up with neighbors,” Michele said.

The high-energy event — with lots of hellos, hugs and dancing — gathers residents, organizations, businesses and local politicos to celebrate Georgetown and CAG’s mission of historic preservation and improving the life of the community. The list of attendees and sponsors reads like a who’s who of the town. The food will be provided, appropriately enough, by Cafe Milano, the Italian restaurant on Prospect Street that is a center of its own social scene in Washington.

Honorary chairs are Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero and his wife Laura Denise, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Selwa “Lucky” Roosevelt, former Sen. Joseph Lieberman and his wife Hadassah, and John DeGioia, president of Georgetown University, and Kitty Kelley, who provides another gala tie-in. She wrote “His Way: An Unauthorized Biography of Frank Sinatra.” The famous crooner, bon vivant and businessman was not pleased. Kelley was sued by Sinatra even before she began to write the book. The lawsuit was dismissed. Three hundred signed copies of her Sinatra book will be given away at Friday’s big party.

It was gala co-chairs Jennifer Altemus, Colleen Girouard and Robin Jones who came up with the evening theme of “Fly Me to the Moon.”

Written in 1954 as “In Other Words,” the song was recorded by many artists and was made forever famous by Sinatra, who sang “Fly Me to the Moon” as a tribute to America’s Apollo astronauts. The singer would have astronauts in his Las Vegas audience as they took a break from training at nearby Nellis Air Force Base. The song itself became the first music heard on the moon, played by Aldrin — second man on the moon — who told song arranger Quincy Jones about it later.

With such music as a background, the gala’s entertainment, Danny Meyers and his DC Love band, will step up. For the after party, disc jockeys Trophy Brothers will keep it moving.

Gala co-chair Jones said, “Colleen and I have been a great team chairing the gala for the past two years — and with Jennifer this year. We just want to create a memorable experience for party guests that keeps them coming back. This year is our best effort yet.” She added, “Being involved with CAG is like having your finger on the pulse of Georgetown.”

After moving back to town, co-chair Girouard joined the association six years ago and found that “it was very best way to meet my neighbors.”

Altemus, the group’s president from 2009 to 2013, said, “I am impressed with all that CAG is able to do with its mostly volunteer staffing. It really adds to the feeling that we live in a small town with all of the big city conveniences and benefits.”

CAG President Pamla Moore sees a safe neighborhood and historic preservation among top concerns and said, “If it wasn’t for community members who actively give their time and talents, Georgetown would not be the wonderful place it is.” Betsy Cooley, the group’s executive director for the last 10 years, said she has a great job, “because all I have to do is keep up with the volunteers.”

Those involved with the group stay with it, such as past presidents Victoria Rixey, Barbara Downs, Ray Kukulski and Denise Cummingham, who began the annual gala, as well as Don Shannon and Kathleen Graff. Other names from years gone by include Ev Shorey, Louis Alexander Traxel, Grosvenor Chapman, Charles Poor, Olcott Deming, Peter Belin, Juan Cameron and Eva Hinton.

The live auction at the gala will be called by Griff Jenkins of Fox News. Items include a Washington Nationals game package, a party for 25 persons at Evermay, a five-night stay in a Sicilian villa, a three-night stay at the Vail Four Seasons, a three-night getaway to the Landings on Skidaway Island in Savannah, Ga., and a weekend at the Georgetown Four Seasons with spa treatments, dinner and rooftop cocktails at the Capella. Silent auction items include dinners at Kafé Leopold, Unum and Peacock Café, plus glassware by A Mano, a wine package and more.

So, raise a glass at the Georgetown Gala Oct. 24 to our kind of town. There are few strangers in the night here. And while CAG wants to “Fly [Us] to the Moon,” we will always come home to Georgetown.


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